Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom On Hipstamatic Partnership, Future Of Photo-sharing With Camera+, Facebook

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom talks to Fast Company about opening up his API to Hipstamatic and the risks and rewards of opening up to even more photo apps in the near future.



Today, Hipstamatic is set to unveil a partnership with Instagram that allows photos from the camera app to be directly ported to Instagram. It marks the first time Instagram has opened up this API to outside services, and could have a big impact on Hipstamatic’s bottom line, as well as on the future of Instagram as a social network.

We caught up with Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom to learn more about what this partnership with Hipstamatic means for the fast-growing startup.

FAST COMPANY: First off, congrats on hitting 25 million users.

KEVIN SYSTROM: 27 million now!

Tell me more about how this partnership with Hipstamatic came about. You’ve known Hipstamtic cofounder Lucas Buick for a bit now. Had you guys been talking about this for some time? Are you a Hipstamatic user?


Both. I’m a huge fan of what Hipstamatic is doing and all they’ve accomplished. They were iPhone App of the Year in 2010 and we got 2011. We have a huge amount of respect for that whole team both as fellow photographers and entrepreneurs.

Really it comes down to this: People post Hipstamatic photos on Instagram all the time, and we just want to make that experience easier.

This is the first time you’ve opened up the API to let photos flow directly into Instagram from an outside source. Why did you choose Hipstamatic as your first partner? What benefits do you see from allowing this?

It’s a step in a direction that we’re testing out. We’ve been very careful about making sure that Instagram photos are about what’s happening right now in your life, and we want to allow for more of those photos to end up on Instagram regardless of where they’re taken


Do you think this will change how Instagram users interact with the network? Do you expect any impact on how users take pictures within the Instagram app and use its internal filters?

We’ve worked hard on an attribution solution that will allow users to easily discover the photos taken with Hipstamatic. Our goal is to allow people to use whatever app they want to get photos into Instagram. We don’t care currently if you use our filters or other apps’ [filters]. It’s about getting great content into Instagram to help the flourishing community of 27 million users.

Should we expect similar partnerships like this in the future, where Instagram (the social network) partners with photography tools (like Hipstamatic, Camera+)? Does this mark a shift away from Instagram as a camera app and push it more toward a social network, rather than a combination of the two?

I’d imagine if the experiment takes off that you’d likely see more API clients being allowed to do the same in the future. We’ve always been a social network–though I think this maybe helps people start to understand that we’ve always been a social network.


Does this make it less likely you guys would do branded filters or premium-photo packs in the future, if you’re opening up the platform to apps like Hipstamatic?

No, I don’t think this precludes us experimenting with stuff like that in the future.

When do you guys expect to open up this API to the masses? Would another social network (like Facebook, for example) one day be able to port photos into Instagram? Or is that not the direction you want to take?

Right now we’re looking at this as an experiment for how Instagram could open up the image graph a bit wider–we’re excited to see the results, and even more excited that Instagram users have more options to express their creativity and record everyday moments through photos.

[Image: Flickr users Mathias; Thumbnail: John Catbagan]

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.